Monday, 29 February 2016

Just A Sprinkle

Skip and I went to the Nature and Birding Center today.

I tried a bit of digiscoping with our scope and my new camera.
Long-billed curlew
Belted Kingfisher

Next time, I'll try using my iPhone with the scope. At the Birdfest on the weekend, I remembered that I had the Peterson birding field guide on it which I can work without a cellular connection or WiFi, so will use it as well.

Back in regular perspective.
Spotted Sandpiper
Male Red-winged Blackbird 

Male Mottled Duck on one foot
The blue patch on the mottled duck's wing is clearly visible
Tricolour Heron
One of our 'birds of the day' was this white morph reddish egret.

We also got really close to this green heron.
The young alligator was snoozing in a spot we've seen him before. We haven't seen Mama in a while but we know she's around.
Great Blue Heron
The roseate spoonbills were hanging out in what seems to be a favourite spot.
Then it started to sprinkle. There was much debate about the identity of the next bird. After closer inspection through the scope, we have decided it is a greater yellowlegs - yellow legs, largish size, and slightly upturned bill. It didn't have black axilla (armpits) so we ruled out willets as a result of our shore bird seminar from the weekend.
Here it is through the scope.
It stopped sprinkling, then started again. We headed for the last bird blind for cover. The sun came out and we headed out for lunch.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Syncopation Sock II

I finished the first Syncopation sock #2. I'm using Manos del Uruguay Alegría sock yarn.
It's a great pattern to knit whilst binge watching TV series. Skip and I finally finished watching the last season of 'Breaking Bad'. I had watched it before over a year ago but it was Skip's first time. Wow!

My new favourite cuff cast-on is the Italian tubular cast-on. It's really easy and uses waste yarn and the crochet hook method but I guess one could use any cast on with the waste yarn.
First, with the waste yarn, cast on half the number of stitches. Then take the main colour and knit into each stitch and follow with a yarn over (these will be your purl sts on the next round). Then join in the round, slip the first stitch purlwise with yarn in back (wyib), take the yarn to the front and purl the yarn overs. *Wyib, slip the next (knit) st, bring/with yarn in front (wyif) and purl the yarn over. Continue from * until you've completed the round. Basically, you are double knitting. Do a knit round, slipping the purl sts wyif. Now you may begin the K1, P1 ribbing. You may remove the waste yarn at any time after the first couple of rows. If you used slippery yarn, you can easily 'unzip' it if you pull from the correct end.

I used my usual 'eye of partridge' heel.
I have cast on the second sock and am underway with the ribbing before starting the K3, P1, pattern.

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night. I have seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture except 'Mad Max' and 'Revenant'. I may watch them at a later time. Today I watched 'Trumbo' because I wanted to see Brian Cranston's performance. He did such a good job as Walter White, I was eager to see him play Dalton Trumbo, a role for which he has been nominated as Best Actor.

Today, Skip and I attended the Birdfest at the SPI Golf Course, sponsored by our Thursday birding group, the Bay Area Birders. We attended three talks: 'Beyond Beginning Birding' by Norma Friedrich, 'RGV Jewels of the Air: Our Butterflies' by Marilyn Lorenz, and 'Shorebird ID' by John Yochum. It was a morning well spent.

We are looking forward to our outing with the Bay Area Birders on Thursday. A birding tour has been booked for us on a chartered boat on the Rio Grande upstream from the Anzalduas Dam in Mission, TX. While in Mission, we plan to visit the National Butterfly Center.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Late Afternoon

Today was a gorgeous day. This morning Skip and I went to Market Days at the Convention Center. After making our purchases, we went out the side door and wandered over to the butterfly garden.
This plant had bees and other insects all over it.
Here's a closeup.
Later this afternoon, we went over to the Birding and Nature Center. It was probably the lowest tide we've seen this year.

This snowy egret was wandering around the mud flats. It's easily distinguished from a great egret by its black bill and bright yellow feet.
We usually see this spotted sandpiper. It bobs its tail up and down while it walks.
The mottled duck is related to the mallard. It has bright orange feet and a blue area on its wing. Here, it was just stretching out after having a snooze.
Usually, all this muddy area is under water. The body of water is the Laguna Madre one of the few hypersalinated bodies of water on earth. It is the inland waterway down the southeast coast of Texas.
There were over a dozen black necked stilts working the mud flats.
The black skimmers were facing into the wind.
There were several royal terns as well. Here's one.
Along another section of the boardwalk, I spotted the elusive Wilson's snipe in the spot I saw one last year and again two days ago. It was really working this area digging its beak into the mud.
The roseate spoonbills were in their usual spot. I have lots of photos of them. I just can't not take a photo of them
We saw a flotilla of pied bill grebes out in the laguna. This solitary fellow was paddling around what I call the alligator pond.
Other birds seen but not photographed were the usual suspects: moorhens, coots, great blue herons, little blue herons, tricolour herons, yellow rump warblers, redheads, laughing and ring-billed gulls, Caspian terns, sanderlings, brown pelicans, willets and a not so usual suspect, a merlin.

We have had 27 uninterrupted days of excellent weather since we arrived. What a contrast from the crappy weather we had last year. Skip and I high-five each other every day we get up and the sun is out and the sky is clear.  Next week? The weather is forecast to be much the same.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Birding at Sabal Palm Sanctuary

Skip and I met our birding group in Brownsville this morning at Sabal Palm Sanctuary. It is a 557 acre preserve, home to one of the last stands of old-growth Sabal Palm forest in the US as well as one of the few remaining historic river plantations in the region.

Today we saw a great kiskadee, an olive sparrow, a couple of black-crested titmouses (titmice?), double crested cormorants, a least grebe, a ladder-backed woodpecker, and many cardinals. Most of the aforementioned species are only seen in the US in this area.
Great Kiskadee

At the feeding station we saw white-tipped doves, a long-billed thrasher, and a green jay.

In addition to many sabal palms, there is other lush vegetation. Across one of the resacas (oxbow lakes) we saw this very large castor bean plant.

One of my favourite plants is Turk's cap (Malvaviscus drummondii).
Its vermilion, 1" long, red flowers are twisted into a tube showing extended red stamens protruding from the whorl.
At the visitors' centre, the mama great horned owl has taken residency again in one of the palms by the main sidewalk. Apparently she arrived last weekend. We remember seeing her in the same tree last year.
Yesterday we went over to the Birding and Nature Center later in the afternoon. We saw a great blue heron spear and then swallow a rather large fish. Of course, this was the day I left my camera card back at the condo so I only had my iPhone for photos. We also saw a Wilson's snipe in the same spot we saw it last year.

We saw the usual species: roseate spoonbills, blue wing teal, black skimmers, reddish egrets, great egrets, tricolour egrets, mottled ducks, ring-billed and laughing gulls, moorhens, coots, yellow-rump warblers. baby alligators, redheads, osprey, and white ibis.

On the way to the car, I looked up to the railing of the water tower and saw a peregrine falcon (under the letter "M")
This is the one photo the internal memory of my camera allowed me to take.
Peregrine Falcon
Ever since seeing two of them there last year, I check the railing every time we visit the Birding and Nature Center. Driving out, I saw a loggerhead shrike on the hydro wire over the other side of the boulevard.

Every time I forget my camera, we see excellent things. Even so, I really would rather have had good photos. Next time, for sure...

Monday, 22 February 2016

Quilt Show

Last weekend, the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Guild sponsored a quilt show at the Convention Center here on the island.

The level of difficulty varied from fairly basic to very complex. Here are a lot of photos of some of the quilts.

Bargello-style quilting

Convex Illusions

Quilt with items of clothing from the child's first year

Bear's paw

'Diamonds are Forever'

Christmas trees
Paper pieced Christmas tree
Another paper pieced quilt from a McCalls Quilting pattern
Hollow blocks
A striking monochromatic quilt using one block pattern
The pinwheels on the top right were 3D

This was a precut strip quilt using Rowan fabrics called 'Jelly Roll Race 2' by Missouri Star Quilt Co.

There were three different quilts that used this maze pattern.
I believe this was done with jelly roll strips as well
 I then attended a talk by Melinda Bula about her work.
She 'paints' with fabric and quilting.

The backs of her quilts are as stunning as the fronts. She even took care to do the stitching on the rod pocket so there wouldn't be a strip of black fabric across the top.

I even found a quilt that was something I could even do. I found the pattern online from Missouri Star Quilt Company.
Here was one that was very scrappy and used almost every colour.
I've seen this one, or something very similar to this, being made on a quilting show on PBS.
Urban Legends
It was displayed at one of the vendor's booths.

There were a couple of vendors selling the Rowan designer fabrics.

Carnival S
More of Melinda's work

Not Melinda's but something a little different.
I'm a sucker for maple leaves. Which has reminded me I have an unfinished maple leaf quilt top at home I should finish up.
This was a very clever sewist's 'Periodic Table' quilt.
And something a little different from one of the vendors.
An opaque zebra?
I really enjoyed the quilt show. I do love looking at pretty things and marvel at the creativity of some people.

Melinda Bula will be teaching at the Canadian Quilter's Association 'Quilt Canada 2016' in Mississauga in June. It would be an excellent opportunity to take one of her classes.